Similarities Among Human, Dog Mammary Tumors May Boost Cancer Research

Could household pets be the key to treating breast carcinoma?

Dogs are more than just a man’s best friend. They may actually play an important role in breast carcinoma research.

Scientists have long known the similarities between breast carcinoma in canines and humans. The tumor’s ability to reprogram healthy cells within the tumor environment to support cancer cell growth is an essential role in human breast carcinoma, but it was unknown if this mechanism also occurred in dogs.

In a study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, investigators set out to answer this question.

They gained access to the tissue archive of the Institute of Veterinary Pathology located at the Animal Hospital, and used molecular biology and immunohistological methods to analyze the surrounding tissue of canine mammary tumors.

“With the permission of our patient’s owners, we conduct pathological tests to better understand diseases,” said Alexandra Malbon, animal pathologist. “In the process, we archive samples of various organs and tissues as these samples can be of great value to answer future research questions.”

By harnessing the archived canine mammary tumor samples, the investigators could confirm that some cells in the tumors vicinity have the same cancer-promoting behavior as those in humans.

“Simply speaking, the tumor enslaves its environment: it forces the surrounding cells to work for its benefit,” said investigator Enni Markkanen.

Although lab rats and mice are commonly used in research, the mammary tumors of canines have significantly higher similarities to breast carcinoma in humans. But investigators noted that this does not mean dogs will become the newest cancer research test subjects.

“We don’t view our dog patients as test subjects for cancer research,” Markkanen said. “But they can help us to better understand breast carcinoma in both dogs and humans and fight it more effectively.”